I swear if somebody really wants to knock me off, the best way to do it is have a little kid sell me something. So today I was on my way home and saw a huge sign for a yard sale. Now I don’t know about you but growing up, if you got your license and you really wanted to drive, the first job you got was “Driving Miss Daisy”- grandma all over town to yard sales. And lawd she would wear you out.
You had to get up at 6am on a spring or summer Saturday morning, roll out to her house while moms and pops lounging happy they don’t gotta do it no mo. She already be waitin on her porch with her bug eyed 4 inch round sun glass lenses and a wide brim Daisy Mae straw hat grinnin from ear to ear. Grandad sittin next to her chucklin as I drive up “awwww $#@!! dey done sent da rookie”. He gets smacked by grandma “@#%@#!! daddy watch yo mouth- see now you done made me cuss.”
Why she carrying four big empty canvas bags, I just don’t kno but I get out and open the back door and lay them on the seat then open the front for her to sit down. Now, mind you, I get back in the car sittin next to a woman who ain’t never drove a day in her life. My butt ain’t even hit the seat and she starts “make sure you wear your seat belt. And did you adjust your seat and mirrors right? Your daddy always checked the tires and oil and water… did you remember? You do know where you going right? And watch your speed. Don’t be drivin like no fool around these corners… and lawd sakes don’t be jammin on brakes or running no stop signs. Now put on your signal and let’s go.” That’s how my day started… and the beginning of my love for yard sales.
In no time at all I became one of her favorite “chauffeurs”. I guess it is because I hadn’t been driving long enough to develop any bad habits so my driving experience really began by driving an old lady around. My friends still tease me to this day because I am such an observant driver while they tend to be more aggressive and got the tickets to prove it.
Anyway, grandma would buy her trinkets but I always had an eye for electronics and tools. And back in the day if you really wanted to get something nice at a po folks price, you bought everything at the yard sales in the white neighborhoods.
Now I know it may come as a shock to some that there were still white neighborhoods during my childhood but, truth be told, they still existed more for economic reasons than race. But the effect is still the same. Neighborhoods that were that exclusive still didn’t have many black people in them.
We really didn’t see it as second hand because the majority of it was stuff we could have never afforded otherwise and it was well kept. Let’s be honest, when I saved up $500 for my first car, I wasn’t about to buy it out of the hood. Somebody who couldn’t pay their rent sho nuff wasn’t making enough to maintain a vehicle right. We all went to the white neighborhoods because every year when their kids went to college, they sold the “high school car” and bought the kid a new car to go to college in. And they had maintenance records. Again, this wasn’t so much a race thing as it was the reality of people who had money. And at that time where we was, they was all white.
Now reading my articles you know I can flip between Ebonics and what we like to call “Proper English”. All educated blacks with any sense learn to do it. On one hand, it makes white folk more comfortable doing business with you and on the other hand ebonics keeps you from gettin jacked or your butt kicked in da hood. But since I was, as they said “born talkin like a white boy” I got teased a lot… that is, until they figured out its usefulness.
Going to yard sales with grandma, people would stop dead in their tracks to hear this “articulate” little scrawny nappy head black boy speak. All of a sudden the kids they used to have stay in the background were invited to talk to me, grandma started getting better deals on the things she wanted, and after they got over their shock about how much I knew about a lot of the electronics they were looking to sell, it was almost like a conversation piece for them to mark it half price so they could say they sold it to that little black boy who knew everything about it.
I would always have to borrow the money from my grandma to buy it. She hesitated the first few times time but felt she owed me after they gave her such a deal. But after we got back home with the stuff and my father and uncles saw what I got and how much I paid for it, I never went to another yard sale again without my pockets bustin with money. After I got a pair of $300 Sansui speakers for my father for $10, somebody else started “Driving Miss Daisy” and my uncle gave me his car every weekend just to find whatever they wanted or we would resell it and split the money. I was never teased for “talking too good” again.
But that was the reality of being young and black and male and well spoken in those days. it was either that you were trying to be white or you were even accused of being gay. Thuggish ebonics was a black badge of masculinity mainly because it was intimidating. And let’s look at the times we are talking about. This was right after the passage of the Civil rights Act and the assassination of Martin Luther King in a time where injustices could be done to black people and the law would look the other way. So being what we now call “gangsta” was like a dog’s growl that told people not to mess with you. And they didn’t.
So that fear of black anger coupled with the law better protecting blacks from abuses put a lot of people who had sat back and just watched the abuses happen in a position where they were seeking ways to make up for the sins of their fathers.
But there weren’t a lot of black folks, like my father, who wanted to hear it. He had simply gone through too much to trust anybody white who was his age or older. So it was kinda like if you wanted to show the father things had changed, you treated the kid right. And in my case so called “talkin white” got me treated very well- at least at those yard sales.
Anyway, I’m a grown man now and I still love me some yard sales. Funny thing is, ever since Obama got elected, now I can’t seem to get away from a yard sale. People want to talk to a black man who sounds like Barack Obama. Mainly because his election has created a opening for people to see that not everyone dark walks around angry.
I never dreamed how growing up having to live between a feared black existence and ridiculed “white intellect” would uniquely qualify me to speak to where America is at this point in time nor the fact that the intellectualism that once got me ridiculed within my own black community, now has people appreciating the balance of who I have become as a person.
Hood sistahs that neva paid me no mind two years ago now want their own Barack. Go figure that it would take his election to validate my existence as a real black man.
As usual, I have gone off topic. So back to my original point. I got a real soft spot for hard working kids. Even though they had no business being in traffic, I would pay for the squeegee kids who cleaned car windows at stop lights in Baltimore, or the ones who hustled for change to carry bags at the grocery store, or whatever honest thing they tried to do even if I really didn’t need the help or have the money to spare.
Because those kids are trying to do it honest and not jack somebody. Because those kids will buy from that store rather than steal from that store and that store will stay in that community as a result. If you want kids to grow up to be good citizens, reward their willingness to work cuz not too many of them care anymore.
I said all of that so I could get to this. Cuz I had to remind myself why I believed in all that when I went to that yard sale today. There was the cutest little snaggle tooth brother and sister every bit of five and six who had a lemonade and cookie stand at the front of the yard sale.
They didn’t even look at me when I went by the first time. But once they heard me laughing with their parents over a few items, I could see them planning to hit me up on the way back out.
So I bought something I really didn’t need and will probably give away to someone who does. Hey it was a $25 item new in the box for $2 and there’s always Ebay right? Anyway… so I’m headin down the driveway and these kids are getting all excited. The snaggle tooth girl says “Hey mister would you like to buy some lemonade?”
Her snaggle tooth brother chimes in “yeah and some cookies too.” Then they both say “and we made it ourself!!” with these toothless grins. I looked back at their parents trying not to let the kids see me laugh.
So I ponied over my dollar and the little girl poured me some lemonade. Then the little professional bakery chef sticks his hand in a plastic sandwich bag and then grabs a napkin to scoop me up three cookies like he working the shop at the mall.
I made a face like “WOW”. The parents were all beaming and smiling. I reached out for my goodies and got the little cup of lemonade and my napkin of cookies. It was obvious they wanted me to try them there so I reached for a cookie.
Only it was stuck to the other cookies. I figured they must have put them together hot so I reached for all the edges to separate the cookies. Only every time I touch a side, it crumbled into something that reminded me of soft soil. In fact if I even bent the napkin the cookies all would start to crumble.
Not wanting to disappoint these toothless darlings, I took my fingers to pinch up this brown soft moist pixie dust and as it hit my tongue, it melted into a pool of brown sugar. It felt like I had just let loose and army of little men with hammers and chisels going after my teeth.
And then I realized that these kids were not toothless by natural causes. They had been biting into these daggone cookies with their front teeth.
So I am swishing my tongue all over my mouth trying to get rid of all that brown sugar when I got an idea. I would just wash it down with the lemonade.
So I take a swig. Only this was concentrated lemon juice with no sugar. So at this point my head is spinning. The kids are lookin at me funny cuz I must’ve had quite an expression on my face. So I looked at the sign and noticed they sold bottled water. Lawd they was so happy they made another sale and the parents were still proudly lookin on.
I drank half the bottled water to stop the burn from the lemon juice down my throat. Then I poured the rest of the juice in the water bottle and shook it up. The kids was looking at me real funny then. The parents who was watching this science experiment came walking down the driveway and were now growing concerned as I took a pinch of the moist cookie dust, put it on my tongue, took a swig from my bottle, swished my head around to sweeten the lemonade and then swallowed. The kids giggled like crazy. The parents thought I was nuts.
Then I asked them. “Were you around when they made this stuff?” And they both looked at each other as if to say “I though you had helped them make it.” Well as it turned out mom just helped them take the cookies in and out of the oven and dad just carried the lemonade jug. As each had come in and out of the kitchen the kids had gotten so far that each had assumed the other had helped them.
So I had the kids present their masterpieces to their parents. Mom looks at me and says in the most diplomatic way she can without alarming the kids…”okay, okay I see now that you have figured out how to make this work” while dad says “hey kids I think you did such a great job that we better go make some more while mommy sells the rest to this nice man.”
The kids go skipping happily into the house. Mom gives me back my dollar with a hug of thanks. And I am so sugar high right now that I got a headache.
Since I can’t do nothin else, I figured I’d tell you the story. I hope it brought a smile to your day.■